by Rachel Travers
We know…donuts are not on most Edible Boston readers’ must-have food list. However, if you’re at an apple farm where they press their own cider, you will probably find just-made, hot-out-of- the-oil apple cider donuts—and they are, without a doubt, one of the guilty pleasures of the season.
Soft. Cakey. Moist from the cider. Barely crisp on the exterior.
Lightly spiced like Indian summer and autumn. A tad greasy, but with great mouth feel. And very compelling.
An informal poll of foodies’ favorites took us out to Ipswich to Russell Orchards, a 120-acre farm along the same route you take to Crane’s Beach. Owned now byMiranda and Doug Russell, who took over the farm from his parents in 2008, it is a beautiful 18th century country barn that has been only slightly renovated. Inside are their cider presses,
an on-site bakery and a donut machine operation that actually runs May through November. To be able to produce the donuts all spring and summer they press all their cider in the fall, freeze it, then pull it out and thaw it as needed.
But in peak apple season, the donut popularity requires that the Russells and their staff politely corral their customers so the wait is orderly and the queue moves well. Fortunately, there is a window overlooking the production line so kids can watch and never get bored.
The all-time busiest donut day was one Sunday in October when they sold 12,800 cider donuts. But that was just one day. In a year, the Russells sell 200,000 cider donuts, 300,000 pounds of apples and 12,000 gallons of cider.
Their cider donut history began in the late ’70s, when Miranda’s inlaws, Meredith andMax Russell, bought the farm.That’s whenMeredith began experimenting with a donut recipe. After much trial and error, as well as thoughtful calculations, she finally created the recipe that is still used today. Don’t even think of asking for it.
And if you don’t know it already, one donut is not enough. You will probably eat one (or two) immediately, then make sure there are enough for the car ride home (times the number of passengers you have). And though you will intellectually know that you should be snacking on one of their over 30 varieties of apples (which you should also buy as well as fresh unpasteurized cider), the Russells have ensured that your politically correct green self will feel no guilt.The oil they use to fry their donuts is not only changed weekly, but is then turned into bio-diesel fuel to power the Russell Orchards tractors.
Hence their motto: “Save the Planet: Eat Cider Donuts.”
Russell Orchards is a working 120-acre farm, of which 80 acres are used to grow no-spray vegetables, all kinds of berries and their fruit trees. It is a popular Pick Your Own spot, first for blueberries and raspberries, then in the fall for apples. The farm stand is open from May through November and is filled with an abundance of specialty products
made either by the Russell farm or other local producers. They also produce their own maple syrup and honey. And their cider donuts aren’t the only hot bakery item—they are known for their fresh-frozen apple pies (4,200 a year), which quickly disappear at holiday time.
Russell Orchards also has its own winery, producing over 20 varieties of fruit wines and hard cider (13,000 bottles a year) that are only available on-site.
143 Argilla Road
Rachel Travers is a freelance food, travel and lifestyle writer who contributes regularly to the Boston Globe and Edible Boston, as well as many other regional, national, and online venues. She can be reached at email@example.com.
The following recipe gives you carte blanche to bring home an extra dozen or two of the cakey wonders. So, with great thought given to the fact that little extra sugar is needed, the flavors are already built in andthere’s no need for an excess of butter or even the use of cream, which most bread puddings call for, we hope you enjoy this silky cider donut pudding.
APPLE CIDER DONUT BREAD PUDDING
Makes 8–10 servings.
14 apple cider donuts, broken apart and dried overnight
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
½ cup white sugar
¼ cup dark brown sugar
3 cups whole milk
1 cup farm-fresh cider
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated
1 large Gala apple, cored, peeled and chopped
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9- by 13- by 2-inch pan.
Put the day-old donut pieces into a large mixing bowl.
In a separate bowl, combine the eggs, butter, sugars, milk, cider, vanilla,
cinnamon and nutmeg. Pour this custard over the broken donut pieces,
and let sit for 15 to 20 minutes.
Peel, core and chop the apple and add it to the mixture.
Pour the mixture into the baking pan and bake for one hour, or until
it has totally set. Serve warm or room temperature, with a touch of
whipped cream or ice cream if you like.